Farm Risk Management & Farmer Survey


Addressing risk is critical to the survival of family farms. Each year, farmers must rise to meet the inevitable challenges of poor weather, market volatility, and natural disasters. Better risk management can save farms and help changing rural economies thrive.

Online Risk Management Resources for Farms:

USDA Resources for Farms:


Attention Farmers!

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Risk Management is Crucial for Sustainable Agriculture to Thrive

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Sustainable farming has limited access to risk management and lending programs because the world of risk is based on actuarial analysis rather than field research on agricultural production practices. Based on actuarial analysis alone, to a banker, 1,000 acres of mono-crop corn is a much safer investment than a diversified, mixed crop and livestock operation. This is because the banker does not take into account the benefit or value of employing agricultural production methods that have been proven to mitigate risk. Yet, many innovative sustainable farmers and researchers have tested and confirmed the risk mitigation value and multiple benefits associated with diversification, integrated production, soil quality and conservation, and a host of sustainable practices.

What RAFI Does to Support Better Risk Management Policies & Practices

Each year, farmers must rise to meet the inevitable challenges of poor weather, market volatility, and natural disasters. RAFI supports farmers in developing and accessing better risk management practices through three key areas: advocacy, research, and policy development.

We do this work not only because crop insurance can help farmers survive severe weather and manage risk but because it can also pave the way to other risk management tools, most notably agricultural credit. Historically crop insurance has best served commodity growers in the Midwest, but we work to ensure that it serves a diverse set of farmers including commodity growers but also specialty, organic, direct market, and diversified farmers.Farmers, particularly those who employ sustainable agricultural production methods, are often not eligible for risk management and lending programs.

Our work in risk management is designed to address these challenges:

Our work is focused on researching, promoting and developing risk management models that will reward, and not penalize, farmers for practicing sustainable, production-based risk management.  Research and advocacy efforts are informed by our experience working directly with farmers and stakeholder. We also develop resources about risk management and offer risk management education for farmers.

Current Projects & Initiatives

Risk Analysis
RAFI is looking intensively at the risk implications of sustainable farming practices, focusing on access to risk management for beginning farmers. The goal of this work is to incentivize sustainable, production-based risk management in crop insurance and lending practices, thereby reducing the risk of moral hazard and opening sustainable agriculture to new risk management options.

Crop Insurance Development
RAFI is working with the North Carolina Strawberry Association to develop a crop insurance policy for strawberries in North Carolina. Strawberries are particularly risky because of the upfront investment and the amount of time crops spend in the field before harvest. Strawberries are not currently covered by a single crop policy in North Carolina, which limits risk management and credit options for strawberry growers.

Risk Management Education
RAFI’s risk management research suggests that family farmers are not being provided the resources needed to make informed risk management decisions. In a 2012 RAFI survey of 157 specialty crop growers, over 65 percent reported “little or no knowledge of crop insurance.”

Given the importance risk management plays in both income security and access to credit, this information gap must be addressed. RAFI has organized a variety of workshops and events designed to educate farmers on crop insurance and risk management:

RAFI’s “Resource Rodeos events brought farmers and resource providers together in an informal setting to discuss financial and legal topics related to farm enterprises. Funded by a generous grant from the Southern Risk Management Education Center (SRMEC), our Resource Rodeos reached farmers and resource providers across NC in 2012 and 2013.

Resourceful Farmer Workshop (June 2015) Do you have a plan for managing risk on your farm? Join RAFI staff members in discussing crucial farm risk management issues and develop a plan for better addressing risk on your farm.


RAFI Publications:

Recent Articles on Crop Insurance from the RAFI Blog:

  • Fact sheet: Crop Insurance for Organic Farming Practices (3/6/2016) - Organic farming has become one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture. USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) recognizes organic farming practices as good farming practices and continues to move forward in improving crop insurance coverage for organic producers and producers transitioning to organic production to make viable and effective risk management options available. In general, regulations governing the insurability of organic and transitional practices are the same as for conventional practices.
  • Historic Changes to Whole Farm Revenue Protection (8/27/2015) - Farmers interested in signing up for WFRP will have the opportunity beginning September 1, 2015.
  • RMA Announces Historic Crop Insurance Reforms to Whole Farm Revenue Protection (8/27/2015) - Today the Risk Management Agency of the USDA announced major changes to Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP), including expanded access to beginning farmers and making the policy available in every state and county in the country. These changes will be effective starting in the 2016 crop year.
  • RAFI Producer Survey on Whole Farm Revenue Protection (7/1/2015) - Executive Summary RAFI, along with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, National Center for Appropriate Technology, Farm Credit Council, and North Carolina Cooperative Extension, distributed a survey to farmers in effort to collect information about their knowledge of and experience with Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) during the first sales period for the policy. The survey […]
  • Should Crop Insurance Be Part of Your Farm Risk Management Plan? (6/16/2015) - RAFI and Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP) have just released the first recording of a series of online webinars designed to help you manage risk on your farm. Click on the link below to view the first recorded session: Should Crop Insurance Be Part of Your Farm Risk Management Plan? crop insurance webinar.wmv For follow-up […]
  • A Whole Year of Whole Farm – The (Preliminary) Data is in! (5/7/2015) - Last year 838 AGR and AGR-Lite policies were sold in the US. Thus far 1,120 WFRP policies have been sold in 2015 - an increase of 282 policies, or 34%, over AGR and AGR-Lite combined.
  • Agroinnovations Podcast Part II: Crop Insurance for Sustainable Agriculture (2/2/2015) - The second half of James Robinson’s interview with Frank Aragona has been published through Frank’s show, The Agroinnovations Podcast. During the interview, James explains the importance of crop insurance as a risk management tool and credit worthiness factor. James talks in detail about Whole Farm Revenue Protection, a new crop insurance policy that offers premium […]
  • Video Release of New Whole-Farm Revenue Protection Policy Webinar (1/26/2015) - There’s a new crop insurance option now available for diversified farmers – Whole Farm Revenue Insurance –and a recent national webinar will help farmers understand whether it’s right for them.   The National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and the Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI-USA) held a webinar on […]

 More on this topic:


Program Staff

James Robinson, Research and Policy Associate
Email: james@rafiusa.org
Tel: (919) 542-1396, x209
James manages research projects that focus on conducting risk analyses of sustainable farming practices. James also manages RAFI’s hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and landowner rights project, which focuses on issues of fairness in mineral rights leasing. Prior to working at RAFI, James was a Graduate Intern for the Florida Senate Committee on Agriculture, a Research Assistant for the Fiscal Research Division of the North Carolina General Assembly and a Research Assistant for the Center for Teaching Quality. James holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from LaGrange College and a Master of Science degree in Political Science from Florida State University.

Molly Lutton, Research Assistant
Email: mlutton@rafiusa.org
Tel: (919) 542-1396, x201
Molly works on data collection, analysis, and coordination for a variety of RAFI’s research projects with a focus on risk analyses of sustainable farming practices. Prior to working at RAFI, Molly was a Research Assistant for a USDA funded study that was examining issues of food access and food insecurity for underserved populations throughout the state of Michigan. She also worked for the Emory University Recycling Office on campus sustainability issues. Molly holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from Emory University and a Master of Science degree from the University of Michigan in Natural Resources and the Environment with a concentration in Environmental Justice and Behavior, Education, Communication.